Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Children of suicide victims-Psychology, Children of suicide victims-Family relationships, Adult children-Family relationships, Parents-Death-Psychological aspects, Parent and adult child, Bereavement-Psychological aspects, Adult children suicide survivors, Emotional proximity


This study was undertaken to look at the ways in which adult children suicide survivors made meaning of their losses by exploring emotional proximity, defined by the researcher for this study as the history, quality, and characteristics of the relationship between adult child and parent at the time of the suicide. The purpose was to elucidate the bereavement experiences of this little-studied subgroup of survivors. Seven adult children survivors from the Boston metropolitan area shared their stories of parental loss through a two-fold process that included completion of a demographic questionnaire and participation in semi-structured, open-ended interviews. A supplementary Internet search of four major survivor organizations and/or websites was also conducted to gain a better understanding of the services and supports available to adult children survivors and the larger survivor community. Major emergent themes surfaced in the findings, testifying to certain shared experiences, reflections and/or distinct patterns of responses in the suicidal loss of a parent. Participants generally had similar initial reactions of shock, self-blame, regret, and denial. Emotional proximity was dichotomized in terms of the quality of goodness or badness of the relationship. Individual processes of meaning-making, changes in significant relationships, and methods of incorporating the loss evolved over time. This study contributed to the dearth of empirical data about adult children survivors, bolstering existing knowledge of suicide survivorship and underscoring the importance of specifically relevant support and services for survivors.




iii, 79 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 66-69)